Der var engang to brødre, den ene var rig og den anden var fattig. Den rige var guldsmed og havde et ondt, hårdt hjerte, den anden var god og from og levede af at binde koste. Han havde to sønner, som var tvillinger og lignede hinanden som to dråber vand. De to drenge gik undertiden hen til deres rige farbror og fik noget at spise af, hvad der faldt af der i huset. En dag, da den fattige mand gik ude i skoven og samlede riskviste, fik han øje på en fugl, der var ganske gylden og så smuk, at han aldrig havde set noget lignende. Han tog en sten op, kastede den efter den og ramte den også, så en af dens gyldne fjer faldt ned. Men fuglen fløj videre. Manden bragte fjeren til sin bror, der straks så, at det var det pure guld, og gav ham mange penge for den. Næste dag klatrede manden op i et birketræ for at hugge nogle grene af. Han så den samme fugl flyve ud derfra og lidt efter fandt han en rede, hvori der lå et gyldent æg. Han tog det og bragte det til sin bror, som gav ham mange penge for det. "Den fugl kunne jeg nok have lyst til at få fingre i," sagde han. Næste dag gik den fattige mand igen ud i skoven og så da guldfuglen sidde oppe i et træ. Han kastede en sten efter den. Fuglen faldt død ned, og han bragte den til sin bror, som gav ham en masse penge for den. "Nu er jeg da forsørget for min levetid," tænkte den fattige mand og gik fornøjet hjem.
Guldsmeden var en snedig fyr og vidste nok, hvad det var for en fugl. "Steg den til mig," sagde han til sin kone," men pas på, at du får det altsammen med. Jeg har lyst til at spise den ganske alene." Der var nemlig det mærkværdige ved fuglen, at den, som spiste dens hjerte og lever, fandt hver morgen et guldstykke under sin hovedpude. Konen gjorde fuglen i stand og stak den på spiddet. Hun havde imidlertid også andet at bestille og blev derfor engang nødt til at gå ud af køkkenet. Mens hun var borte, kom børstenbinderens to små drenge derind og gav sig til at dreje lidt på spiddet. I det samme faldt der to små stykker kød ned på gulvet og den ene sagde da: "Lad os bare spise det. Jeg er så sulten, og det er der såmænd ingen som mærker." Da konen kom ind et øjeblik efter, så hun, at de stod og tyggede på noget og spurgte hvad de spiste. "Det er bare et par små stykker, der faldt ned," svarede de. "Gud, det har nok været hjerte og lever," sagde konen forskrækket, og for at hendes mand ikke skulle opdage det og blive vred, slagtede hun i en fart en hanekylling og stegte hjerte og lever sammen med guldfuglen. Da det var færdigt satte hun det ind for sin mand og han spiste det til sidste mundfuld. Men da han næste morgen stak hånden ind under hovedpuden for at tage guldstykket var der ikke mere guld end ellers.
De to drenge havde ingen anelse om, hvor lykken havde været dem god. Da de stod op om morgenen, faldt der noget på gulvet, og da de ville se efter, hvad det var, fandt de to guldstykker. De gav dem til deres far, som aldeles ikke kunne begribe, hvor de kom fra, men da det blev sådan ved hver morgen, gik han over til sin bror og fortalte ham denne besynderlige historie. Guldsmeden tænkte sig straks, hvordan det var gået til, og for at hævne sig sagde han: "Dine børn står i pagt med djævelen. Du må ikke tage guldet, og du kan heller ikke beholde drengene hjemme, for den onde har dem i sin magt og kan også bringe dig i fordærvelse." Faderen blev bange, og hvor tungt det end faldt ham, gik han med begge drengene ud i skoven og forlod dem der.
De to drenge løb nu omkring i skoven og kunne slet ikke finde vej hjem. Langt om længe mødte de en jæger, som spurgte, hvem de var. "Vores far er børstenbinder," svarede den ældste og fortalte, at de ikke længere måtte være hjemme, fordi der hver morgen lå et guldstykke under deres hovedpude. "Det er da egentlig ikke noget slemt," sagde jægeren, "når I ellers er flinke fyre og ikke ligger på den lade side." Den skikkelige mand syntes godt om børnene, og da han ikke selv havde nogen, tog han dem med hjem. Han opdrog dem til jægere og gemte omhyggeligt de guldstykker, han fandt hver morgen, fordi han tænkte, at de måske kunne få brug for dem i fremtiden.
Da de var blevet store, tog deres plejefar dem en dag med ud i skoven og sagde: "I dag skal I gøre jeres prøveskud, så jeg kan se, om I er udlærte." De gik med ham ud til det sted, hvor de skulle passe på vildtet, men de lå længe og ventede, uden at der viste sig noget. Pludselig fik jægeren øje på en flok snegæs, der kom flyvende i trekant lige over dem. "Skyd nu en bort af hvert hjørne," sagde han til den ene. Han gjorde det, og nu havde han bestået prøven. Kort efter kom der en anden flok flyvende i form af et total. Den anden bror skød nu også en bort fra hvert hjørne og jægeren erklærede ligeledes ham for udlært. De to brødre gik nu ud i skoven, hvor de talte med hinanden uden at jægeren hørte det. Da de kom hjem om aftenen og skulle sætte sig til bords, sagde den ene: "Vi rører ikke en bid, før I har sagt ja til det, vi beder jer om." - "Hvad er det?" spurgte jægeren. "Nu vil vi gerne se os lidt om i verden," svarede han, "vil I give os lov til at drage bort?" - "I er to rigtige jægere," sagde den gamle fornøjet, "det er sådan, det skal være. Drag I kun af sted, og gid det må gå jer godt."
Før de gik, gav den gamle dem hver en bøsse og en hund og lod dem tage så mange guldstykker, de ville. Derpå fulgte han dem et stykke på vej, og ved afskeden gav han dem en blank kniv og sagde: "Når I engang skilles, så stik denne kniv i et træ, så kan den af jer, der kommer tilbage dertil se, hvordan det er gået hans bror. Hvis den side af kniven, der vender mod den kant, hvor han er draget hen, er blank, er han i live, men er kniven rusten, er han død." Brødrene gik videre og videre og kom til sidst til en stor skov, som de ikke kunne nå igennem på en dag. De var altså nødsaget til at blive der om natten, og spise, hvad de havde i tasken. Næste dag gik de videre, men skoven fik ingen ende. "Vi må se at skyde noget, ellers dør vi jo af sult," sagde den ene, og da han fik øje på en hare, lagde han bøssen til kinden, men haren råbte:
"Kære jæger, lad mig gå,
to af mine unger skal du få."
Derpå kom den springende med to små hareunger, men de var så søde, at jægeren ikke kunne nænne at skyde dem, og da de gik videre, rendte de to små unger lige i hælene på dem.
Lidt efter fik de øje på en ræv, der luskede forbi, og sigtede på den, men ræven råbte:
"Kære jæger, lad mig gå,
to af mine unger skal du få."
Men jægeren syntes det var synd at dræbe de små dyr, og de traskede nu også med. Et øjeblik efter kom der en ulv travende, men da jægerne ville til at skyde, råbte den:
"Kære jæger, lad mig gå,
to af mine unger skal du få."
De to små ulveunger fulgte nu også med jægerne, og da de lidt efter mødte en bjørn, bad den også:
"Kære jæger, lad mig gå
to af mine unger skal du få."
Så var der hele otte små dyr. Endelig kom der en stor løve og rystede sin vældige manke, men jægerne var ikke bange og sigtede på den.
"Kære jæger, lad mig gå,
to af mine unger skal du få,"
sagde den, og nu havde jægerne både løver og bjørne og ulve og ræve og harer. De var jo imidlertid lige sultne endnu, og en af dem sagde da til rævene: "Hør, I er nogle forslagne fyre, kan I ikke skaffe os noget at spise." - "Der ligger en landsby lige herved," svarede de, "der har vi allerede hentet os mangen en lækker høne, nu skal vi vise jer vej." De gik nu ind i landsbyen og købte mad til sig selv og dyrene og drog så videre. Rævene var godt kendt med egnen og vidste god besked med, hvor hønsegårdene var, så de kunne vise jægerne vej overalt.
De drog nu omkring i nogen tid, men kunne ikke finde noget sted, hvor de begge to kunne komme i tjeneste, og de blev enige om, at det var bedst at skilles. De delte dyrene, så at de hver fik en løve, en bjørn, en ulv, en ræv og en hare. Så sagde de farvel til hinanden, satte den gamle jægers kniv fast i et træ, og den ene drog mod øst og den anden mod vest.
Kort tid efter kom den yngste med sine dyr til en by, som var helt behængt med sørgeflor, og der tog han ind i en kro og spurgte værten, om han også havde plads til dyrene. Værten lukkede dem ind i en stald, hvor der var et hul i væggen. Derigennem krøb haren ud og hentede sig et kålhovede, ræven hentede sig en høne, og da den havde spist den tog den også hanen, men ulven og bjørnen og løven var for store til at slippe igennem. Værten lod dem da bringe ud på marken, hvor der gik en ko og græssede, for at de kunne æde sig mætte. Da jægeren således havde sørget for sine dyr, spurgte han, hvorfor byen var behængt med sørgeflor. "Det er fordi kongens eneste datter må dø i morgen," svarede værten. "Er hun så syg?" spurgte jægeren. "Nej," svarede værten, "hun er såmænd frisk og rask nok, men hun må dø alligevel." - "Hvor kan det dog være?" - "Udenfor byen bor der en drage på et højt, højt bjerg," svarede manden. "Den forlanger hvert år en ung jomfru, ellers ødelægger den hele landet. Men nu er der ikke andre end prinsessen tilbage, så der er ingen nåde, i morgen må hun ud til dragen." - "Hvorfor bliver den drage ikke dræbt?" sagde jægeren. "Ja, svarede værten, "der er mange riddere, som har prøvet derpå, men de har allesammen måttet bøde med livet. Kongen har lovet sin datter og efter sin død hele riget til den, der dræber dragen."
Jægeren sagde ikke mere, men næste morgen gik han med sine dyr op på dragebjerget. Han kom til en lille kirke og på alteret stod der tre bægere, hvorpå der var indridset: "Den, som tømmer disse bægre, bliver den stærkeste mand i verden og kan løfte det sværd, der ligger foran dørtærskelen." Jægeren drak ikke noget, men gik ud og gravede, til han kom til sværdet, men han kunne ikke rokke det af pletten. Han gik da tilbage og tømte bægrene og blev da så stærk, at han med lethed kunne føre det tunge våben. Kongen, marskallen og hele hoffet fulgte prinsessen ud af byen. I lang afstand så hun jægeren, som stod oppe på bjerget og ventede på hende og ville ikke gå op, fordi hun troede det var dragen, men da hele landet ellers ville være fortabt, besluttede hun sig til sidst til at gå den tunge gang. Kongen og hoffolkene vendte bedrøvet hjem; kun marskallen blev stående for i afstand at se, hvad der ville ske.
Da kongedatteren kom op på bjerget, traf hun ikke dragen, men den unge jæger, som trøstede hende og sagde, at han nok skulle frelse hende, og lukkede hende inde i kirken. Lidt efter kom den syv hovede drage farende med stor larm. Den blev meget forundret ved at se jægeren og spurgte, hvad han havde at gøre der på bjerget. "Jeg vil slås med dig," svarede jægeren. "Nu har jeg dræbt så mange riddere og får vel også nok bugt med dig," sagde dragen og spyede ild ud af sine syv gab. Det var meningen, at ilden skulle fænge i det tørre græs og jægeren skulle kvæles i røg og flammer, men dyrene kom løbende og trådte ilden ned. Dragen for nu imod jægeren, men han svang sit sværd, så det peb i luften, og huggede de tre hoveder af. Nu blev dragen ude af sig selv af raseri, fløj højt op i luften, spyede flammer ud over jægeren og ville kaste sig over ham, men han drog sit sværd igen og huggede endnu tre hoveder af den. Uhyret blev mat og sank om. Det ville dog igen styrte løs på jægeren, men han samlede alle sine kræfter og huggede halen af den. Nu var den ude af stand til at kæmpe mere, og han kaldte da på sine dyr, for at de kunne sønderrive den. Da kampen var endt, gik jægeren hen og lukkede døren op til kirken. Kongedatteren var besvimet af angst og sindsbevægelse og lå på gulvet. Han bar hende ud, og da hun igen kom til sig selv og slog øjnene op, viste han hende dragen og sagde, at nu var hun frelst. Hun blev umådelig glad og sagde: "Nu skal jeg giftes med dig. Far har lovet mig til den, som dræbte dragen." Derpå tog hun sit koralhalsbånd af og delte det mellem dyrene, og løven fik guldlåsen. Jægeren gav hun et lommetørklæde, hvorpå hendes navn stod, og han skar de syv tunger ud af dragens hoveder og gemte dem deri.
Han var imidlertid træt og medtaget efter kampen, og prinsessen sagde derfor: "Lad os sove lidt. Det kan vi vist begge to trænge til." De lagde sig så ned i græsset og jægeren sagde til løven: "Du skal holde vagt, så ingen kommer og overfalder os." Løven lagde sig ved siden af dem, men den var også træt af kampen og kaldte på bjørnen og sagde: "Læg dig ved siden af mig, jeg kan ikke holde øjnene åbne, og væk mig, hvis der skulle ske noget." Bjørnen gjorde det, men den var også søvnig, og lidt efter sagde den til ulven: "Jeg er skrupsøvnig. Du må lægge dig her og holde vagt, men væk mig endelig, hvis der skulle komme noget på." Ulven var imidlertid lige så træt som de to andre, og kaldte på ræven og bad den holde vagt. Men heller ikke ræven kunne holde øjnene åbne og den bad derfor haren våge over dem. Den stakkels lille hare var så træt, så træt, at den faldt i søvn, og den havde jo ingen, den kunne få til at holde vagt for sig. Så nu lå de der på rad, prinsessen, jægeren, løven, bjørnen, ulven, ræven og haren, og sov fast.
Marskallen var imidlertid blevet stående for at passe på, hvad der skete, og da han ikke så dragen flyve bort med prinsessen og alt deroppe lod til at være stille og fredeligt, tog han endelig mod til sig og gik op ad bjerget. Der fandt han så dragen, som lå sønderrevet på jorden ved siden af prinsessen og jægeren og alle dyrene. Han var en rigtig ond mand og drog nu sit sværd og huggede hovedet af jægeren, tog derpå prinsessen på armen og bar hende ned ad bjerget. Da hun vågnede, blev hun forfærdet, men marskallen sagde: "Du er nu i min magt. Du skal fortælle, at det er mig, der har dræbt dragen." - "Det kan jeg ikke," svarede hun, "det er en jæger og hans dyr, som har frelst mig." Han drog da sit sværd og truede med at dræbe hende, hvis hun ikke adlød, og hun var da nødt til at love det. Han bragte hende nu til kongen, som ikke vidste, hvad ben han skulle stå på af glæde over at han havde sit eget barn igen. "Det er mig, der har dræbt dragen," sagde marskallen, "jeg har frelst prinsessen og hele landet, og fordrer nu, at I opfylder eders løfter." - "Er det sandt, hvad han siger?" spurgte kongen. "Det må det vel være," svarede hun, "men jeg forlanger dog, at brylluppet skal vente et år." Inden den tid håbede hun, at hendes kære jæger ville lade høre fra sig.
Oppe på bjerget lå imidlertid dyrene og sov ved siden af deres døde herre. En stor humlebi kom flyvende og satte sig på harens snude, men den jagede den bort med poten og sov videre. Bien kom igen, men haren jog den atter bort. Tredie gang stak den den så kraftig i snuden, at den vågnede. Øjeblikkelig vækkede den ræven, ræven vækkede ulven, ulven vækkede bjørnen og bjørnen løven. Da løven så, at prinsessen var borte og dens herre dræbt, begyndte den at brøle og råbte: "Hvem har gjort det? Hvorfor har du ikke vækket mig, bjørn?" - "Hvorfor har du ikke vækket mig?" sagde bjørnen til ulven, og den sagde til ræven: "Hvorfor har du ikke vækket mig?" - "Men du skulle jo vække mig," sagde ræven til haren. Det stakkels lille dyr vidste ikke, hvad det skulle svare, og fik derfor skyld for det hele. De andre ville styrte sig over den, men den bad: "Dræb mig ikke. Jeg vil gøre vores herre levende igen. Jeg ved et bjerg, hvor der vokser en urt, som helbreder for alle sår og sygdomme. Men det er to hundrede mil herfra." - "Om fireogtyve timer må du være her igen med urten," sagde løven, og haren for af sted og kom virkelig tilbage i rette tid. Løven satte nu hovedet på kroppen, haren lagde urten i munden og straks begyndte blodet at strømme gennem årerne og jægeren blev levende igen. Han blev forfærdet, da han ikke så jomfruen, og tænkte: "Hun er vel gået sin vej, mens jeg sov, for at blive fri for mig." Løven havde i skyndingen sat hans hovede forkert på, men han var så bedrøvet, at han ikke mærkede det. Først da han skulle til at spise til middag opdagede han, at ansigtet vendte til den forkerte side og spurgte forundret dyrene, hvad der var sket, mens han sov. Løven fortalte ham da, at de allesammen havde været så trætte, at de var faldet i søvn, og da de vågnede, havde de fundet ham med afhugget hovede. Haren havde så hentet den helbredende urt og de havde af bar hastværk sat hovedet forkert på. For at gøre det godt igen, rev den hovedet af jægeren og vendte det om, og haren fik det ved hjælp af urten til at vokse sammen igen.
Jægeren drog imidlertid bedrøvet omkring og lod sine dyr danse for folk. Tilfældigvis kom han netop efter et års forløb til den by, hvor prinsessen, som han havde frelst, boede. Hele byen var behængt med skarlagen, og han spurgte værten: "Hvad skal det betyde? For et år siden var hele byen behængt med flor og nu stråler den af det rødeste skarlagen." - "Det skal jeg såmænd sige jer," svarede værten, "i fjor skulle kongens eneste datter udleveres til dragen, men marskallen kæmpede med den og frelste hende og i morgen skal deres bryllup stå. Derfor hang der dengang sørgeflor og nu skarlagen."
Dagen efter, da brylluppet skulle fejres, sagde jægeren ved middagstid til værten: "Vil I tro, at jeg i dag vil spise brød fra kongens taffel her?" - "Den hopper jeg ikke på," svarede værten, "jeg tør vædde hundrede guldstykker." Jægeren satte ligeså meget derimod og kaldte så på haren: "Hør lille springfyr," sagde han, "kan du hente mig noget af kongens brød. Haren havde ingen, som den kunne overlade det til, men måtte selv til det. "Jeg får jo nok slagterhundene efter mig, når jeg løber alene på gaden," tænkte den. Og sådan gik det også. Hundene kom farende og ville nappe i dens gode pels. Den sprang af sted med lynets fart og smuttede ind i et skilderhus, uden at skildvagten så det. Hundene for efter den, men manden forstod ikke spøg og slog løs på dem med bøssekolben, så de skrigende og hylende løb af sted. Da haren mærkede, at luften var renset, sprang den lige ind i slottet, satte sig under kongedatterens stol og kradsede hende på foden. "Vil du væk," sagde hun og troede det var hendes hund. Haren kradsede hende igen, men hun troede stadig det var hunden. Tredie gang kiggede hun endelig ned og kendte straks haren på dens halsbånd. Hun tog den op på armen, bar den ind i sit værelse og spurgte, hvad den ville. "Min herre, der dræbte dragen har sendt mig," svarede den, "jeg skulle bede om noget af det brød, kongen spiser." Hun blev meget glad og lod straks bageren bringe, hvad den forlangte. "Jamen han må også bære det hen for mig, så hundene ikke gør mig noget," sagde haren. Bageren bar det lige hen til kroen, så tog haren brødet i forpoterne og bragte det til sin herre. "Der kan I se," sagde jægeren til værten, "må jeg så bede om de hundrede guldstykker." Værten blev meget forundret. "Men nu vil jeg også have noget af kongens steg," sagde jægeren. "Det kunne jeg nok lide at se," sagde værten, men vædde ville han dog ikke. Jægeren kaldte nu på ræven og sagde: "Kan du løbe op og hente mig noget af kongens steg." Den kendte bedre smutvejene og listede sig op på slottet uden at en eneste hund fik øje på den, satte sig under kongedatterens stol og kradsede hende på foden. Da hun så ned, kendte hun straks ræven på halsbåndet, tog den med ind i sin stue og spurgte, hvad den ville. "Min herre, der har dræbt dragen, har sendt mig herop," svarede den, "jeg skal bede om noget af kongens steg." Hun kaldte straks på kokken, og han måtte bringe stegen og bære den lige hen til kroen. Så tog ræven fadet, viftede fluerne væk med halen og bragte det til sin herre. "Der kan I se," sagde han til værten, "nu har jeg både kongens brød og kød, men jeg vil også have nogle grøntsager. Den kaldte derfor på ulven og sagde: "Gå op og hent mig nogle af kongens grøntsager." Ulven behøvede ikke at være bange for nogen, men gik lige op på slottet og ind til kongedatteren og trak hende i kjolen, så hun vendte sig om. Hun kendte den straks på halsbåndet og spurgte, hvad den ville. "Min herre, som dræbte dragen, har sendt mig," svarede den, "jeg vil gerne have nogle af kongens grøntsager." Hun lod straks kokken lave nogle og han måtte bringe dem hen til kroen, der tog ulven fadet og bragte det til sin herre. "Der kan I se," sagde han til værten, "nu har jeg brød og kød og grøntsager, men nu vil jeg også have noget bagværk." Derpå kaldte han på bjørnen og sagde: "Kom her, slikmund. Kan du gå op og hente mig noget af kongens bagværk." Bjørnen travede af sted og alle gik af vejen for den, men da den kom til skildvagterne spærrede de vejen for den med deres bøsser og ville ikke lade den komme ind i slottet. Så rejste den sig på bagbenene og gav skildvagterne et par ordentlige ørefigner, så de trimlede til højre og venstre, gik lige ind i slottet, stillede sig bag prinsessens stol og brummede lidt. Da hun vendte sig om kendte hun bjørnene, lod den gå med ind i sit værelse og spurgte, hvad den ville. "Min herre, som har dræbt dragen, har sendt mig herop," svarede den, "jeg ville gerne have noget bagværk." Hun lod da bageren bage nogle kager og bringe dem ned til kroen. Bjørnen slikkede så først det sukker af, der var faldet udenfor, og bragte så fadet til sin herre. "Der kan I se," sagde han til værten, "nu har jeg brød og kød og grøntsager og kager, nu vil jeg også have noget af kongens vin." Han kaldte på løven og sagde: "Du holder jo nok af at få dig en rus engang imellem. Gå op og hent mig noget af kongens vin." Løven gik med værdige skridt ned ad gaden, og alle folk flygtede forfærdede. Skildvagterne ville spærre vejen for den, men den udstødte blot et brøl, så løb de deres vej. Løven gik nu op i slottet og slog med halen på døren. Prinsessen kom hen og lukkede op og blev først helt forskrækket, men så kendte hun den på halsbåndets guldlås, og tog den med sig ind i sit værelse og spurgte, hvad den ville. "Min herre, som har dræbt dragen, har sendt mig herop," svarede den, "jeg ville gerne have noget af kongens vin." Hun kaldte da på mundskænken for at han skulle give den noget af den vin, kongen plejede at drikke. "Det er bedst, jeg går med og ser, at jeg får den rigtige," sagde løven og fulgte med ned i kælderen. Mundskænken ville først tappe noget af den vin, som tjenerne plejede at drikke. "Lad mig først smage," sagde løven, tappede en halvpot og slugte den i en mundfuld. "Det er ikke den rigtige," sagde løven. Manden så skævt til den og ville give den af et andet fad, som marskallen plejede at drikke. "Lad mig først smage," sagde løven, tappede en halvpot og drak det, "jo, den er bedre, men det er heller ikke den rigtige." - "Bilder sådan et dumt dyr sig ind, at han forstår sig på vin," sagde mundskænken rasende, men i det samme gav løven ham en sådan ørefigen, at han faldt om på gulvet. Da han var kommet på benene igen, førte han den stiltiende ind i en lille kælder, hvor kongens vin lå, som intet andet menneske smagte. Løven tappede en halv pot, drak det og sagde så: "Det er den rigtige" og bød mundskænken fylde seks flasker. Da de kom ud i luften, var løven ikke fri for at være lidt fuld og dinglede frem og tilbage, så mundskænken måtte bære vinen hen til kroen. Så tog løven kurven og bragte den til sin herre. "Der kan I se," sagde han til værten, "nu har jeg brød og kød og grøntsager og vin fra kongens taffel. Nu vil vi spise." Han satte sig så til bords og gav også dyrene noget at spise, og han var meget glad, for han så, at kongedatteren holdt af ham endnu. Da de var mætte sagde han til værten: "Nu har jeg spist og drukket kongens mad, nu går jeg op på slottet og gifter mig med prinsessen." - "Hvordan skal det gå til?" sagde værten, "i dag holder hun jo bryllup med en anden." Jægeren tog prinsessens lommetørklæde med de syv dragetunger frem og sagde: "Dette her skal hjælpe mig til det." Værten så på tørklædet og rystede på hovedet. "Nej," sagde han, "I kan snarere få mig til at tro alt andet end det. Jeg vædder hus og gård derom."Jægeren tog en pung med tusinde guldstykker. "Dem sætter jeg derimod," sagde han.
Kongen spurgte imidlertid sin datter, hvad alle de vilde dyr havde haft at gøre på slottet. "Jeg tør ikke sige det," svarede hun, "men send bud efter deres herre, så bærer du dig klogt ad." Kongen sendte en tjener ned til kroen for at indbyde den fremmede mand, og han kom netop som jægeren havde væddet med værten. "Der kan I se," sagde han, "nu sender kongen bud efter mig, men jeg går ikke sådan som jeg ser ud." Derpå gik han ud til tjeneren og sagde: "Sig til kongen, at jeg beder ham sende mig prægtige klæder og en vogn med seks heste og tjenere, som kan opvarte mig." Da kongen hørte dette svar, spurgte han sin datter, hvad han skulle gøre. "Gør som han forlanger," svarede hun, og kongen sendte da prægtige klæder og en vogn med seks heste og tjenere ned til kroen. "Der kan I se," sagde jægeren til værten, "det sker, som jeg forlanger." Derpå tog han de smukke klæder på, tog tørklædet med dragetungerne med og kørte til slottet. Da kongen så ham komme, spurgte han sin datter, hvordan han skulle modtage ham. "Gå ham i møde," svarede hun. Kongen gjorde det, og jægeren kom ind fulgt af sine dyr. Kongen anviste ham plads mellem sig og prinsessen, marskallen sad på den anden side, men kendte ham ikke igen. Imidlertid blev dragens syv hoveder båret rundt for at vises frem, og kongen sagde: "De syv hoveder har marskallen hugget af dragen, og derfor giver jeg ham i dag min datter til hustru." Da gik jægeren hen og åbnede gabet og spurgte: "Hvor er tungerne henne?" Marskallen blev bleg af angst og vidste først ikke, hvad han skulle sige, men endelig sagde han: "Drager har ingen tunger." - "Løgnere skulle ikke have tunger," sagde jægeren, "men dragetunger er sejrs-mærker," og nu lukkede han tørklædet op, stak en tunge ind i hvert gab, og de passede ganske. Derpå viste han prinsessen det lommetørklæde, hvorpå hendes navn var broderet, og spurgte, hvem hun havde givet det. "Det gav jeg den, der dræbte dragen," svarede hun. Han kaldte da på sine dyr, tog halsbåndet med den gyldne lås, viste prinsessen det og spurgte, hvis det var. "Det er mit," svarede hun, "jeg gav det til de dyr, som hjalp med at overvinde dragen." Jægeren sagde nu: "Da jeg træt af kampen var faldet i søvn kom marskallen og huggede mit hovede af. Derpå bortførte han kongedatteren og sagde, at det var ham, som havde dræbt dragen. Tungerne, tørklædet og halsbåndet beviser tydeligt nok, at han har løjet." Derpå fortalte han, at hans dyr havde helbredt ham med en vidunderlig urt, og at han et år var draget omkring med dem, til han kom tilbage hertil, og værten fortalte ham om marskallens bedrageri. "Er det sandt, at han har dræbt dragen?" spurgte kongen sin datter. "Ja," svarede hun, "nu tør jeg åbenbare marskallens skændige handlinger, fordi de uden min skyld er kommet for dagen, for han havde tvunget mig til at love at tie stille. Derfor bad jeg, om brylluppet måtte vente år og dag." Kongen kaldte nu på sine tolv rådsherrer for at de skulle dømme marskallen, og de blev enige om, at han skulle sønderrives af okser. Dommen blev udført, og kongen gav jægeren sin datter og udnævnte ham til statholder over hele riget. Brylluppet blev fejret med stor pragt, og den unge konge sendte bud efter sin far og sin plejefar og gav dem rige gaver. Han glemte heller ikke værten, men lod ham komme op til sig og sagde: "Kan I se, nuer jeg gift med prinsessen, og jeres gård og jord er mit." - "Ja, I har jo ret til det," svarede værten. "Men jeg vil lade nåde gå for ret," sagde den unge konge, "behold kun eders gård og også de tusind guldstykker."
Den unge konge levede lykkelig og glad med sin dronning. Han drog ofte på jagt, og de tro dyr fulgte ham. I nærheden af slottet lå der imidlertid en skov, som der fortaltes mange fæle ting om. Når man først var kommet derind, slap man ikke så let ud igen, hed det. Kongen fik stor lyst til at gå på jagt derinde og plagede sin svigerfar lige til han gav ham lov. Han red af sted med stort følge, og da han kom til skoven, så han en snehvid hind springe forbi. "Vent til jeg kommer igen, jeg vil fælde det smukke dyr," sagde han til sine folk og red ind i skoven, kun fulgt af sine tro dyr. Folkene ventede til det blev mørkt, men da han ikke kom igen, red de hjem og sagde til den unge dronning: "Kongen har jaget en hvid hind i den fortryllede skov og er ikke kommet ud endnu." Dronningen blev meget bange, da hun hørte det. Kongen havde imidlertid forfulgt dyret uden at kunne indhente det. Når han troede, det var inden for skudvidde, var det i samme øjeblik langt borte, og til sidst forsvandt det. Han mærkede nu, at han var kommet dybt ind i skoven, tog sit horn og blæste deri, men der var ingen, som svarede, for hans folk kunne ikke høre det. Da natten faldt på, måtte han opgive at lede efter vejen og tændte sig et bål ved et træ for at overnatte der. Da han havde sat sig ved ilden med sine dyr, syntes han pludselig, der lød en menneskelig stemme, men han kunne ikke opdage, hvorfra den kom. Lidt efter hørte han nogen, som stønnede ovenover ham, og da han så op i træet, fik han øje på en gammel kone, der sad og jamrede: "Uh, hvor jeg fryser." - "Kom så ned og varm dig," sagde han. "Jeg tør ikke," svarede hun, "dine dyr bider mig." - "De gør dig ingenting," svarede kongen, "kom nu bare." Den gamle kone var imidlertid en heks. "Nu kaster jeg en kvist ned til dig," sagde hun, "når du slår dem med den på ryggen gør de mig ikke noget." Men i samme øjeblik, han gjorde det, blev de forvandlet til sten. Da heksen ikke behøvede at være bange for dyrene, sprang hun ned, rørte også ved kongen med kvisten og han blev ligeledes til sten. Så grinede hun og slæbte ham og dyrene hen til en grav, hvor der allerede lå en hel bunke af den slags sten.
Den unge dronning blev imidlertid mere og mere ulykkelig, da kongen slet ikke kom igen. Tilfældigvis var hans anden bror, der var vandret mod øst, netop på denne tid kommet til kongeriget. Han havde ikke kunnet få noget at bestille og var så draget omkring med sine dyr og havde ladet dem danse. Engang fik han lyst til at få at vide, hvordan det var gået hans bror, og da han kom hen til det træ, hvori de ved afskeden havde stukket kniven, så han, at det halve af den var rusten og det halve blankt. "Der må være hændt min bror en stor ulykke," tænkte han forskrækket, "men måske kan jeg frelse ham, halvdelen af kniven er endnu blank." Han drog nu imod vest med sine dyr, og da han kom til byens port kom vagten hen til ham og spurgte, om han skulle melde ham hos dronningen. Hun havde i de sidste dage været ude af sig selv af angst, og troede, han var omkommet i den fortryllede skov. Brødrene lignede nemlig hinanden så meget, at skildvagten antog ham for den unge konge, og så havde han jo også dyrene med sig. Han mærkede jo straks, at det var hans bror, der var tale om, og tænkte: "Det er bedst, jeg udgiver mig for ham, så kan jeg måske lettere frelse ham." Han fulgte da skildvagten ind i slottet og blev modtaget med stor glæde. Den unge dronning troede, at det var hendes mand, og spurgte, hvorfor han var blevet så længe borte: "Jeg var faret vild i skoven og kunne ikke finde ud igen," svarede han. Da han om aftenen gik i seng lagde han et tveægget sværd mellem sig og den unge dronning. Hun kunne ikke forstå, hvad det skulle betyde, men turde ikke spørge om det.
Han blev der endnu et par dage og udforskede nøje, hvordan det var fat med den fortryllede skov. "Jeg har lyst til at jage der endnu en gang," sagde han. Den unge dronning bad ham indtrængende om at lade være, men han stod fast ved sin beslutning og red derud med stort følge. Det gik ham ligesom broderen. Da han så den hvide hind bød han sine folk vente, til han kom igen, og red derind, kun fulgt af sine tro dyr. Men han kunne ikke indhente den og kom så dybt ind i skoven, at han ikke kunne finde ud igen, og måtte blive der om natten. Da han havde tændt et bål og sat sig derved, hørte han den samme stønnen oppe fra træet: "Uh, hvor jeg fryser." Da han så derop fik han øje på heksen og sagde: "Kom kun herned og varm dig." - "Jeg tør ikke," svarede hun, "dine dyr bider mig." - "Nej, de gør dig ikke noget," sagde han. "Nu kaster jeg en kvist ned, når du slår dem med den, gør de mig ikke noget," sagde den gamle. Da jægeren hørte det fik han mistanke. "Jeg slår ikke mine dyr, og hvis du ikke kommer ned, henter jeg dig." - "Du kan dog ikke gøre mig noget," sagde hun. "Hvis du ikke kommer, så skyder jeg dig," råbte han. "Skyd bare væk," grinede hun, "jeg er ikke bange for dine kugler." Han sigtede nu på hende, men hun var skudfast mod alle blykugler og lo så det gjaldede igennem skoven og råbte: "Du rammer mig ikke." Men jægeren vidste nok, hvordan han skulle bære sig ad, rev tre sølvknapper af sin frakke og ladede sin bøsse med dem, og derimod hjalp ingen trolddomskunster. Han skød, og med et højt skrig styrtede hun ned. Han satte nu foden på hende og sagde: "Hvis du ikke straks siger, hvor min bror er, kaster jeg dig på ilden." Hun var forfærdelig angst, bad for sig og sagde: "Han er forvandlet til sten og ligger derhenne i graven med sine dyr." Han tvang hende dronning troede, jeg var hendes mand, og jeg sad ved hendes side ved bordet og sov i din seng om natten." Da kongen hørte det, blev han så skinsyg, at han rasende greb sit sværd og huggede hovedet af sin bror. Men da han så ham ligge død der og det røde blod vældede ud, fortrød han det. "Han har frelst mig," råbte han grædende, "og til tak har jeg taget hans liv." Da kom hans hare løbende og tilbød at hente livsens urt, sprang af sted og kom tilbage i rette tid, og den døde blev igen kaldt til live og mærkede slet ikke noget til såret.
De drog nu videre og den yngste sagde: "Du ser ud som jeg og har ligeså pragtfulde klæder og de samme dyr følger os. Vi vil drage ind ad hver sin port og komme på samme tid til den gamle konge." De skiltes nu og noget efter kom skildvagterne fra begge porte på en gang og meldte, at den unge konge og dyrene var kommet hjem fra jagten. "Det er jo umuligt," sagde den gamle, "portene ligger jo en mil fra hinanden." Imidlertid kom de to brødre ind i slotsgården og gik op på slottet. "De ser jo ganske ens ud," sagde kongen til sin datter, "jeg kan ikke kende dem fra hinanden. Du må sige, hvem der er din mand." Hun var helt ulykkelig og kunne slet ikke hitte ud af det, men så kom hun til at tænke på halsbåndet, som hun havde givet dyrene. Da hun fandt løven med guldlåsen, råbte hun glad: "Det er min mand, som ejer denne løve." - "Ja, det er det," sagde den unge konge leende, og de satte sig nu til bords og spiste og drak. Da den unge konge om aftenen gik i seng, spurgte hun: "Hvorfor har du de sidste nætter stadig lagt et tveægget sværd i sengen? Jeg troede du ville slå mig ihjel?" Nu indså han, hvor trofast hans bror havde været.
There were once upon a time two brothers, one rich and the other poor. The rich one was a goldsmith and evil-hearted. The poor one supported himself by making brooms, and was good and honourable. The poor one had two children, who were twin brothers and as like each other as two drops of water. The two boys went backwards and forwards to the rich house, and often got some of the scraps to eat. It happened once when the poor man was going into the forest to fetch brush-wood, that he saw a bird which was quite golden and more beautiful than any he had ever chanced to meet with. He picked up a small stone, threw it at him, and was lucky enough to hit him, but one golden feather only fell down, and the bird flew away. The man took the feather and carried it to his brother, who looked at it and said, "It is pure gold!" and gave him a great deal of money for it. Next day the man climbed into a birch-tree, and was about to cut off a couple of branches when the same bird flew out, and when the man searched he found a nest, and an egg lay inside it, which was of gold. He took the egg home with him, and carried it to his brother, who again said, "It is pure gold," and gave him what it was worth. At last the goldsmith said, "I should indeed like to have the bird itself." The poor man went into the forest for the third time, and again saw the golden bird sitting on the tree, so he took a stone and brought it down and carried it to his brother, who gave him a great heap of gold for it. "Now I can get on," thought he, and went contentedly home.
The goldsmith was crafty and cunning, and knew very well what kind of a bird it was. He called his wife and said, "Roast me the gold bird, and take care that none of it is lost. I have a fancy to eat it all myself." The bird, however, was no common one, but of so wondrous a kind that whosoever ate its heart and liver found every morning a piece of gold beneath his pillow. The woman made the bird ready, put it on the spit, and let it roast. Now it happened that while it was at the fire, and the woman was forced to go out of the kitchen on account of some other work, the two children of the poor broom-maker ran in, stood by the spit and turned it round once or twice. And as at that very moment two little bits of the bird fell down into the dripping-tin, one of the boys said, "We will eat these two little bits; I am so hungry, and no one will ever miss them." Then the two ate the pieces, but the woman came into the kitchen and saw that they were eating something and said, "What have ye been eating?" - "Two little morsels which fell out of the bird," answered they. "That must have been the heart and the liver," said the woman, quite frightened, and in order that her husband might not miss them and be angry, she quickly killed a young cock, took out his heart and liver, and put them beside the golden bird. When it was ready, she carried it to the goldsmith, who consumed it all alone, and left none of it. Next morning, however, when he felt beneath his pillow, and expected to bring out the piece of gold, no more gold pieces were there than there had always been.
The two children did not know what a piece of good-fortune had fallen to their lot. Next morning when they arose, something fell rattling to the ground, and when they picked it up there were two gold pieces! They took them to their father, who was astonished and said, "How can that have happened?" When next morning they again found two, and so on daily, he went to his brother and told him the strange story. The goldsmith at once knew how it had come to pass, and that the children had eaten the heart and liver of the golden bird, and in order to revenge himself, and because he was envious and hard-hearted, he said to the father, "Thy children are in league with the Evil One, do not take the gold, and do not suffer them to stay any longer in thy house, for he has them in his power, and may ruin thee likewise." The father feared the Evil One, and painful as it was to him, he nevertheless led the twins forth into the forest, and with a sad heart left them there.
And now the two children ran about the forest, and sought the way home again, but could not find it, and only lost themselves more and more. At length they met with a huntsman, who asked, "To whom do you children belong?" - "We are the poor broom-maker's boys," they replied, and they told him that their father would not keep them any longer in the house because a piece of gold lay every morning under their pillows. "Come," said the huntsman, "that is nothing so very bad, if at the same time you keep honest, and are not idle." As the good man liked the children, and had none of his own, he took them home with him and said, "I will be your father, and bring you up till you are big." They learnt huntsmanship from him, and the piece of gold which each of them found when he awoke, was kept for them by him in case they should need it in the future.
When they were grown up, their foster-father one day took them into the forest with him, and said, "To-day shall you make your trial shot, so that I may release you from your apprenticeship, and make you huntsmen." They went with him to lie in wait and stayed there a long time, but no game appeared. The huntsman, however, looked above him and saw a covey of wild geese flying in the form of a triangle, and said to one of them, "Shoot me down one from each corner." He did it, and thus accomplished his trial shot. Soon after another covey came flying by in the form of the figure two, and the huntsman bade the other also bring down one from each corner, and his trial shot was likewise successful. "Now," said the foster-father, "I pronounce you out of your apprenticeship; you are skilled huntsmen." Thereupon the two brothers went forth together into the forest, and took counsel with each other and planned something. And in the evening when they had sat down to supper, they said to their foster-father, "We will not touch food, or take one mouthful, until you have granted us a request." Said he, "What, then, is your request?" They replied, "We have now finished learning, and we must prove ourselves in the world, so allow us to go away and travel." Then spake the old man joyfully, "You talk like brave huntsmen, that which you desire has been my wish; go forth, all will go well with you." Thereupon they ate and drank joyously together.
When the appointed day came, their foster-father presented each of them with a good gun and a dog, and let each of them take as many of his saved-up gold pieces as he chose. Then he accompanied them a part of the way, and when taking leave, he gave them a bright knife, and said, "If ever you separate, stick this knife into a tree at the place where you part, and when one of you goes back, he will will be able to see how his absent brother is faring, for the side of the knife which is turned in the direction by which he went, will rust if he dies, but will remain bright as long as he is alive." The two brothers went still farther onwards, and came to a forest which was so large that it was impossible for them to get out of it in one day. So they passed the night in it, and ate what they had put in their hunting-pouches, but they walked all the second day likewise, and still did not get out. As they had nothing to eat, one of them said, "We must shoot something for ourselves or we shall suffer from hunger," and loaded his gun, and looked about him. And when an old hare came running up towards them, he laid his gun on his shoulder, but the hare cried,
"Dear huntsman, do but let me live,
Two little ones to thee I'll give,"
and sprang instantly into the thicket, and brought two young ones. But the little creatures played so merrily, and were so pretty, that the huntsmen could not find it in their hearts to kill them. They therefore kept them with them, and the little hares followed on foot. Soon after this, a fox crept past; they were just going to shoot it, but the fox cried,
"Dear hunstman, do but let me live,
Two little ones I'll also give."
He, too, brought two little foxes, and the huntsmen did not like to kill them either, but gave them to the hares for company, and they followed behind. It was not long before a wolf strode out of the thicket; the huntsmen made ready to shoot him, but the wolf cried,
"Dear huntsman, do but let me live,
Two little ones I'll likewise give."
The huntsmen put the two wolves beside the other animals, and they followed behind them. Then a bear came who wanted to trot about a little longer, and cried:
"Dear huntsman, do but let me live,
Two little ones I, too, will give."
The two young bears were added to the others, and there were already eight of them. At length who came? A lion came, and tossed his mane. But the huntsmen did not let themselves be frightened and aimed at him likewise, but the lion also said,
"Dear huntsman, do but let me live,
Two little ones I, too, will give."
And he brought his little ones to them, and now the huntsmen had two lions, two bears, two wolves, two foxes, and two hares, who followed them and served them. In the meantime their hunger was not appeased by this, and they said to the foxes, "Hark ye, cunning fellows, provide us with something to eat. You are crafty and deep." They replied, "Not far from here lies a village, from which we have already brought many a fowl; we will show you the way there." So they went into the village, bought themselves something to eat, had some food given to their beasts, and then travelled onwards. The foxes, however, knew their way very well about the district and where the poultry-yards were, and were able to guide the huntsmen.
Now they travelled about for a while, but could find no situations where they could remain together, so they said, "There is nothing else for it, we must part." They divided the animals, so that each of them had a lion, a bear, a wolf, a fox, and a hare, then they took leave of each other, promised to love each other like brothers till their death, and stuck the knife which their foster-father had given them, into a tree, after which one went east, and the other went west.
The younger, however, arrived with his beasts in a town which was all hung with black crape. He went into an inn, and asked the host if he could accommodate his animals. The innkeeper gave him a stable, where there was a hole in the wall, and the hare crept out and fetched himself the head of a cabbage, and the fox fetched himself a hen, and when he had devoured that got the cock as well, but the wolf, the bear, and the lion could not get out because they were too big. Then the innkeeper let them be taken to a place where a cow was just then lying on the grass, that they might eat till they were satisfied. And when the huntsman had taken care of his animals, he asked the innkeeper why the town was thus hung with black crape? Said the host, "Because our King's only daughter is to die to-morrow." The huntsman inquired if she was "sick unto death?" - "No," answered the host, "she is vigorous and healthy, nevertheless she must die!" - "How is that?" asked the huntsman. "There is a high hill without the town, whereon dwells a dragon who every year must have a pure virgin, or he lays the whole country waste, and now all the maidens have already been given to him, and there is no longer anyone left but the King's daughter, yet there is no mercy for her; she must be given up to him, and that is to be done to-morrow." Said the huntsman, "Why is the dragon not killed?" - "Ah," replied the host, "so many knights have tried it, but it has cost all of them their lives. The King has promised that he who conquers the dragon shall have his daughter to wife, and shall likewise govern the kingdom after his own death."
The huntsman said nothing more to this, but next morning took his animals, and with them ascended the dragon's hill. A little church stood at the top of it, and on the altar three full cups were standing, with the inscription, "Whosoever empties the cups will become the strongest man on earth, and will be able to wield the sword which is buried before the threshold of the door." The huntsman did not drink, but went out and sought for the sword in the ground, but was unable to move it from its place. Then he went in and emptied the cups, and now he was strong enough to take up the sword, and his hand could quite easily wield it. When the hour came when the maiden was to be delivered over to the dragon, the King, the marshal, and courtiers accompanied her. From afar she saw the huntsman on the dragon's hill, and thought it was the dragon standing there waiting for her, and did not want to go up to him, but at last, because otherwise the whole town would have been destroyed, she was forced to go the miserable journey. The King and courtiers returned home full of grief; the King's marshal, however, was to stand still, and see all from a distance.
When the King's daughter got to the top of the hill, it was not the dragon which stood there, but the young huntsman, who comforted her, and said he would save her, led her into the church, and locked her in. It was not long before the seven-headed dragon came thither with loud roaring. When he perceived the huntsman, he was astonished and said, "What business hast thou here on the hill?" The huntsman answered, "I want to fight with thee." Said the dragon, "Many knights have left their lives here, I shall soon have made an end of thee too," and he breathed fire out of seven jaws. The fire was to have lighted the dry grass, and the huntsman was to have been suffocated in the heat and smoke, but the animals came running up and trampled out the fire. Then the dragon rushed upon the huntsman, but he swung his sword until it sang through the air, and struck off three of his heads. Then the dragon grew right furious, and rose up in the air, and spat out flames of fire over the huntsman, and was about to plunge down on him, but the huntsman once more drew out his sword, and again cut off three of his heads. The monster became faint and sank down, nevertheless it was just able to rush upon the huntsman, but he with his last strength smote its tail off, and as he could fight no longer, called up his animals who tore it in pieces. When the struggle was ended, the huntsman unlocked the church, and found the King's daughter lying on the floor, as she had lost her senses with anguish and terror during the contest. He carried her out, and when she came to herself once more, and opened her eyes, he showed her the dragon all cut to pieces, and told her that she was now delivered. She rejoiced and said, "Now thou wilt be my dearest husband, for my father has promised me to him who kills the dragon." Thereupon she took off her necklace of coral, and divided it amongst the animals in order to reward them, and the lion received the golden clasp. Her pocket-handkerchief, however, on which was her name, she gave to the huntsman, who went and cut the tongues out of the dragon's seven heads, wrapped them in the handkerchief, and preserved them carefully.
That done, as he was so faint and weary with the fire and the battle, he said to the maiden, "We are both faint and weary, we will sleep awhile." Then she said, "yes," and they lay down on the ground, and the huntsman said to the lion, "Thou shalt keep watch, that no one surprises us in our sleep," and both fell asleep. The lion lay down beside them to watch, but he also was so weary with the fight, that he called to the bear and said, "Lie down near me, I must sleep a little: if anything comes, waken me." Then the bear lay down beside him, but he also was tired, and called the wolf and said, "Lie down by me, I must sleep a little, but if anything comes, waken me." Then the wolf lay down by him, but he was tired likewise, and called the fox and said, "Lie down by me, I must sleep a little; if anything comes, waken me." Then the fox lay down beside him, but he too was weary, and called the hare and said, "Lie down near me, I must sleep a little, and if anything should come, waken me." Then the hare sat down by him, but the poor hare was tired too, and had no one whom he could call there to keep watch, and fell asleep. And now the King's daughter, the huntsman, the lion, the bear, the wolf, the fox, and the hare, were all sleeping a sound sleep. The marshal, however, who was to look on from a distance, took courage when he did not see the dragon flying away with the maiden, and finding that all the hill had become quiet, ascended it. There lay the dragon hacked and hewn to pieces on the ground, and not far from it were the King's daughter and a huntsman with his animals, and all of them were sunk in a sound sleep. And as he was wicked and godless he took his sword, cut off the huntsman's head, and seized the maiden in his arms, and carried her down the hill. Then she awoke and was terrified, but the marshal said, "Thou art in my hands, thou shalt say that it was I who killed the dragon." - "I cannot do that," she replied, "for it was a huntsman with his animals who did it." Then he drew his sword, and threatened to kill her if she did not obey him, and so compelled her that she promised it. Then he took her to the King, who did not know how to contain himself for joy when he once more looked on his dear child in life, whom he had believed to have been torn to pieces by the monster. The marshal said to him, "I have killed the dragon, and delivered the maiden and the whole kingdom as well, therefore I demand her as my wife, as was promised." The King said to the maiden, "Is what he says true?" - "Ah, yes," she answered, "it must indeed be true, but I will not consent to have the wedding celebrated until after a year and a day," for she thought in that time she should hear something of her dear huntsman.
The animals, however, were still lying sleeping beside their dead master on the dragon's hill, and there came a great humble-bee and lighted on the hare's nose, but the hare wiped it off with his paw, and went on sleeping. The humble-bee came a second time, but the hare again rubbed it off and slept on. Then it came for the third time, and stung his nose so that he awoke. As soon as the hare was awake, he roused the fox, and the fox, the wolf, and the wolf the bear, and the bear the lion. And when the lion awoke and saw that the maiden was gone, and his master was dead, he began to roar frightfully and cried, "Who has done that? Bear, why didst thou not waken me?" The bear asked the wolf, "Why didst thou not waken me?" and the wolf the fox, "Why didst thou not waken me?" and the fox the hare, "Why didst thou not waken me?" The poor hare alone did not know what answer to make, and the blame rested with him. Then they were just going to fall upon him, but he entreated them and said, "Kill me not, I will bring our master to life again. I know a mountain on which a root grows which, when placed in the mouth of any one, cures him of all illness and every wound. But the mountain lies two hundred hours journey from here." The lion said, "In four-and-twenty hours must thou have run thither and have come back, and have brought the root with thee." Then the hare sprang away, and in four-and-twenty hours he was back, and brought the root with him. The lion put the huntsman's head on again, and the hare placed the root in his mouth, and immediately everything united together again, and his heart beat, and life came back. Then the huntsman awoke, and was alarmed when he did not see the maiden, and thought, "She must have gone away whilst I was sleeping, in order to get rid of me." The lion in his great haste had put his master's head on the wrong way round, but the huntsman did not observe it because of his melancholy thoughts about the King's daughter. But at noon, when he was going to eat something, he saw that his head was turned backwards and could not understand it, and asked the animals what had happened to him in his sleep. Then the lion told him that they, too, had all fallen asleep from weariness, and on awaking, had found him dead with his head cut off, that the hare had brought the life-giving root, and that he, in his haste, had laid hold of the head the wrong way, but that he would repair his mistake. Then he tore the huntsman's head off again, turned it round, and the hare healed it with the root.
The huntsman, however, was sad at heart, and travelled about the world, and made his animals dance before people. It came to pass that precisely at the end of one year he came back to the same town where he had delivered the King's daughter from the dragon, and this time the town was gaily hung with red cloth. Then he said to the host, "What does this mean? Last year the town was all hung with black crape, what means the red cloth to-day?" The host answered, "Last year our King's daughter was to have been delivered over to the dragon, but the marshal fought with it and killed it, and so to-morrow their wedding is to be solemnized, and that is why the town was then hung with black crape for mourning, and is to-day covered with red cloth for joy?"
Next day when the wedding was to take place, the huntsman said at mid-day to the inn-keeper, "Do you believe, sir host, that I while with you here to-day shall eat bread from the King's own table?" - "Nay," said the host, "I would bet a hundred pieces of gold that that will not come true." The huntsman accepted the wager, and set against it a purse with just the same number of gold pieces. Then he called the hare and said, "Go, my dear runner, and fetch me some of the bread which the King is eating." Now the little hare was the lowest of the animals, and could not transfer this order to any the others, but had to get on his legs himself. "Alas!" thought he, "if I bound through the streets thus alone, the butchers' dogs will all be after me." It happened as he expected, and the dogs came after him and wanted to make holes in his good skin. But he sprang away, have you have never seen one running? and sheltered himself in a sentry-box without the soldier being aware of it. Then the dogs came and wanted to have him out, but the soldier did not understand a jest, and struck them with the butt-end of his gun, till they ran away yelling and howling. As soon as the hare saw that the way was clear, he ran into the palace and straight to the King's daughter, sat down under her chair, and scratched at her foot. Then she said, "Wilt thou get away?" and thought it was her dog. The hare scratched her foot for the second time, and she again said, "Wilt thou get away?" and thought it was her dog. But the hare did not let itself be turned from its purpose, and scratched her for the third time. Then she peeped down, and knew the hare by its collar. She took him on her lap, carried him into her chamber, and said, "Dear Hare, what dost thou want?" He answered, "My master, who killed the dragon, is here, and has sent me to ask for a loaf of bread like that which the King eats." Then she was full of joy and had the baker summoned, and ordered him to bring a loaf such as was eaten by the King. The little hare said, "But the baker must likewise carry it thither for me, that the butchers' dogs may do no harm to me." The baker carried if for him as far as the door of the inn, and then the hare got on his hind legs, took the loaf in his front paws, and carried it to his master. Then said the huntsman, "Behold, sir host, the hundred pieces of gold are mine." The host was astonished, but the huntsman went on to say, "Yes, sir host, I have the bread, but now I will likewise have some of the King's roast meat."
The host said, "I should indeed like to see that," but he would make no more wagers. The huntsman called the fox and said, "My little fox, go and fetch me some roast meat, such as the King eats." The red fox knew the bye-ways better, and went by holes and corners without any dog seeing him, seated himself under the chair of the King's daughter, and scratched her foot. Then she looked down and recognized the fox by its collar, took him into her chamber with her and said, "Dear fox, what dost thou want?" He answered, "My master, who killed the dragon, is here, and has sent me. I am to ask for some roast meat such as the King is eating." Then she made the cook come, who was obliged to prepare a roast joint, the same as was eaten by the King, and to carry it for the fox as far as the door. Then the fox took the dish, waved away with his tail the flies which had settled on the meat, and then carried it to his master. "Behold, sir host," said the huntsman, "bread and meat are here but now I will also have proper vegetables with it, such as are eaten by the King." Then he called the wolf, and said, "Dear Wolf, go thither and fetch me vegetables such as the King eats." Then the wolf went straight to the palace, as he feared no one, and when he got to the King's daughter's chamber, he twitched at the back of her dress, so that she was forced to look round. She recognized him by his collar, and took him into her chamber with her, and said, "Dear Wolf, what dost thou want?" He answered, "My master, who killed the dragon, is here, I am to ask for some vegetables, such as the King eats." Then she made the cook come, and he had to make ready a dish of vegetables, such as the King ate, and had to carry it for the wolf as far as the door, and then the wolf took the dish from him, and carried it to his master. "Behold, sir host," said the huntsman, "now I have bread and meat and vegetables, but I will also have some pastry to eat like that which the King eats." He called the bear, and said, "Dear Bear, thou art fond of licking anything sweet; go and bring me some confectionery, such as the King eats." Then the bear trotted to the palace, and every one got out of his way, but when he went to the guard, they presented their muskets, and would not let him go into the royal palace. But he got up on his hind legs, and gave them a few boxes on the ears, right and left, with his paws, so that the whole watch broke up, and then he went straight to the King's daughter, placed himself behind her, and growled a little. Then she looked behind her, knew the bear, and bade him go into her room with her, and said, "Dear Bear, what dost thou want?" He answered, "My master, who killed the dragon, is here, and I am to ask for some confectionery, such as the King eats." Then she summoned her confectioner, who had to bake confectionery such as the King ate, and carry it to the door for the bear; then the bear first licked up the comfits which had rolled down, and then he stood upright, took the dish, and carried it to his master. "Behold, sir host," said the huntsman, "now I have bread, meat, vegetables and confectionery, but I will drink wine also, and such as the King drinks." He called his lion to him and said, "Dear Lion, thou thyself likest to drink till thou art intoxicated, go and fetch me some wine, such as is drunk by the King." Then the lion strode through the streets, and the people fled from him, and when he came to the watch, they wanted to bar the way against him, but he did but roar once, and they all ran away. Then the lion went to the royal apartment, and knocked at the door with his tail. Then the King's daughter came forth, and was almost afraid of the lion, but she knew him by the golden clasp of her necklace, and bade him go with her into her chamber, and said, "Dear Lion, what wilt thou have?" He answered, "My master, who killed the dragon, is here, and I am to ask for some wine such as is drunk by the King." Then she bade the cup-bearer be called, who was to give the lion some wine like that which was drunk by the King. The lion said, "I will go with him, and see that I get the right wine." Then he went down with the cup-bearer, and when they were below, the cup-bearer wanted to draw him some of the common wine that was drunk by the King's servants, but the lion said, "Stop, I will taste the wine first," and he drew half a measure, and swallowed it down at one draught. "No," said he, "that is not right." The cup-bearer looked at him askance, but went on, and was about to give him some out of another barrel which was for the King's marshal. The lion said, "Stop, let me taste the wine first," and drew half a measure and drank it. "That is better, but still not right," said he. Then the cup-bearer grew angry and said, "How can a stupid animal like you understand wine?" But the lion gave him a blow behind the ears, which made him fall down by no means gently, and when he had got up again, he conducted the lion quite silently into a little cellar apart, where the King's wine lay, from which no one ever drank. The lion first drew half a measure and tried the wine, and then he said, That may possibly be the right sort, and bade the cup-bearer fill six bottles of it. And now they went upstairs again, but when the lion came out of the cellar into the open air, he reeled here and there, and was rather drunk, and the cup-bearer was forced to carry the wine as far as the door for him, and then the lion took the handle of the basket in his mouth, and took it to his master. The huntsman said, "Behold, sir host, here have I bread, meat, vegetables, confectionery and wine such as the King has, and now I will dine with my animals," and he sat down and ate and drank, and gave the hare, the fox, the wolf, the bear, and the lion also to eat and to drink, and was joyful, for he saw that the King's daughter still loved him. And when he had finished his dinner, he said, "Sir host, now have I eaten and drunk, as the King eats and drinks, and now I will go to the King's court and marry the King's daughter." Said the host, "How can that be, when she already has a betrothed husband, and when the wedding is to be solemnized to-day?" Then the huntsman drew forth the handkerchief which the King's daughter had given him on the dragon's hill, and in which were folded the monster's seven tongues, and said, "That which I hold in my hand shall help me to do it." Then the innkeeper looked at the handkerchief, and said, "Whatever I believe, I do not believe that, and I am willing to stake my house and courtyard on it." The huntsman, however, took a bag with a thousand gold pieces, put it on the table, and said, "I stake that on it."
Now the King said to his daughter, at the royal table, "What did all the wild animals want, which have been coming to thee, and going in and out of my palace?" She replied, "I may not tell you, but send and have the master of these animals brought, and you will do well." The King sent a servant to the inn, and invited the stranger, and the servant came just as the huntsman had laid his wager with the innkeeper. Then said he, "Behold, sir host, now the King sends his servant and invites me, but I do not go in this way." And he said to the servant, "I request the Lord King to send me royal clothing, and a carriage with six horses, and servants to attend me." When the King heard the answer, he said to his daughter, "What shall I do?" She said, "Cause him to be fetched as he desires to be, and you will do well." Then the King sent royal apparel, a carriage with six horses, and servants to wait on him. When the huntsman saw them coming, he said, "Behold, sir host, now I am fetched as I desired to be," and he put on the royal garments, took the handkerchief with the dragon's tongues with him, and drove off to the King. When the King saw him coming, he said to his daughter, "How shall I receive him?" She answered, "Go to meet him and you will do well." Then the King went to meet him and led him in, and his animals followed. The King gave him a seat near himself and his daughter, and the marshal, as bridegroom, sat on the other side, but no longer knew the huntsman. And now at this very moment, the seven heads of the dragon were brought in as a spectacle, and the King said, "The seven heads were cut off the dragon by the marshal, wherefore to-day I give him my daughter to wife." The huntsman stood up, opened the seven mouths, and said, "Where are the seven tongues of the dragon?" Then was the marshal terrified, and grew pale and knew not what answer he should make, and at length in his anguish he said, "Dragons have no tongues." The huntsman said, "Liars ought to have none, but the dragon's tongues are the tokens of the victor," and he unfolded the handkerchief, and there lay all seven inside it. And he put each tongue in the mouth to which it belonged, and it fitted exactly. Then he took the handkerchief on which the name of the princess was embroidered, and showed it to the maiden, and asked to whom she had given it, and she replied, "To him who killed the dragon." And then he called his animals, and took the collar off each of them and the golden clasp from the lion, and showed them to the maiden and asked to whom they belonged. She answered, "The necklace and golden clasp were mine, but I divided them among the animals who helped to conquer the dragon." Then spake the huntsman, "When I, tired with the fight, was resting and sleeping, the marshal came and cut off my head. Then he carried away the King's daughter, and gave out that it was he who had killed the dragon, but that he lied I prove with the tongues, the handkerchief, and the necklace." And then he related how his animals had healed him by means of a wonderful root, and how he had travelled about with them for one year, and had at length again come there and had learnt the treachery of the marshal by the inn-keeper's story. Then the King asked his daughter, "Is it true that this man killed the dragon?" And she answered, "Yes, it is true. Now can I reveal the wicked deed of the marshal, as it has come to light without my connivance, for he wrung from me a promise to be silent. For this reason, however, did I make the condition that the marriage should not be solemnized for a year and a day." Then the King bade twelve councillors be summoned who were to pronounce judgment on the marshal, and they sentenced him to be torn to pieces by four bulls. The marshal was therefore executed, but the King gave his daughter to the huntsman, and named him his viceroy over the whole kingdom. The wedding was celebrated with great joy, and the young King caused his father and his foster-father to be brought, and loaded them with treasures. Neither did he forget the inn-keeper, but sent for him and said, "Behold, sir host, I have married the King's daughter, and your house and yard are mine." The host said, "Yes, according to justice it is so." But the young King said, "It shall be done according to mercy," and told him that he should keep his house and yard, and gave him the thousand pieces of gold as well.
And now the young King and Queen were thoroughly happy, and lived in gladness together. He often went out hunting because it was a delight to him, and the faithful animals had to accompany him. In the neighborhood, however, there was a forest of which it was reported that it was haunted, and that whosoever did but enter it did not easily get out again. The young King, however, had a great inclination to hunt in it, and let the old King have no peace until he allowed him to do so. So he rode forth with a great following, and when he came to the forest, he saw a snow-white hart and said to his people, "Wait here until I return, I want to chase that beautiful creature," and he rode into the forest after it, followed only by his animals. The attendants halted and waited until evening, but he did not return, so they rode home, and told the young Queen that the young King had followed a white hart into the enchanted forest, and had not come back again. Then she was in the greatest concern about him. He, however, had still continued to ride on and on after the beautiful wild animal, and had never been able to overtake it; when he thought he was near enough to aim, he instantly saw it bound away into the far distance, and at length it vanished altogether. And now he perceived that he had penetrated deep into the forest, and blew his horn but he received no answer, for his attendants could not hear it. And as night, too, was falling, he saw that he could not get home that day, so he dismounted from his horse, lighted himself a fire near a tree, and resolved to spend the night by it. While he was sitting by the fire, and his animals also were lying down beside him, it seemed to him that he heard a human voice. He looked round, but could perceived nothing. Soon afterwards, he again heard a groan as if from above, and then he looked up, and saw an old woman sitting in the tree, who wailed unceasingly, "Oh, oh, oh, how cold I am!" Said he, "Come down, and warm thyself if thou art cold." But she said, "No, thy animals will bite me." He answered, "They will do thee no harm, old mother, do come down." She, however, was a witch, and said, "I will throw down a wand from the tree, and if thou strikest them on the back with it, they will do me no harm." Then she threw him a small wand, and he struck them with it, and instantly they lay still and were turned into stone. And when the witch was safe from the animals, she leapt down and touched him also with a wand, and changed him to stone. Thereupon she laughed, and dragged him and the animals into a vault, where many more such stones already lay.
As, however, the young King did not come back at all, the Queen's anguish and care grew constantly greater. And it so happened that at this very time the other brother who had turned to the east when they separated, came into the kingdom. He had sought a situation, and had found none, and had then travelled about here and there, and had made his animals dance. Then it came into his mind that he would just go and look at the knife that they had thrust in the trunk of a tree at their parting, that he might learn how his brother was. When he got there his brother's side of the knife was half rusted, and half bright. Then he was alarmed and thought, "A great misfortune must have befallen my brother, but perhaps I can still save him, for half the knife is still bright." He and his animals travelled towards the west, and when he entered the gate of the town, the guard came to meet him, and asked if he was to announce him to his consort the young Queen, who had for a couple of days been in the greatest sorrow about his staying away, and was afraid he had been killed in the enchanted forest? The sentries, indeed, thought no otherwise than that he was the young King himself, for he looked so like him, and had wild animals running behind him. Then he saw that they were speaking of his brother, and thought, "It will be better if I pass myself off for him, and then I can rescue him more easily." So he allowed himself to be escorted into the castle by the guard, and was received with the greatest joy. The young Queen indeed thought that he was her husband, and asked him why he had stayed away so long. He answered, "I had lost myself in a forest, and could not find my way out again any sooner." At night he was taken to the royal bed, but he laid a two-edged sword between him and the young Queen; she did not know what that could mean, but did not venture to ask.
He remained in the palace a couple of days, and in the meantime inquired into everything which related to the enchanted forest, and at last he said, "I must hunt there once more." The King and the young Queen wanted to persuade him not to do it, but he stood out against them, and went forth with a larger following. When he had got into the forest, it fared with him as with his brother; he saw a white hart and said to his people, "Stay here, and wait until I return, I want to chase the lovely wild beast," and then he rode into the forest and his animals ran after him. But he could not overtake the hart, and got so deep into the forest that he was forced to pass the night there. And when he had lighted a fire, he heard some one wailing above him, "Oh, oh, oh, how cold I am!" Then he looked up, and the self-same witch was sitting in the tree. Said he, "If thou art cold, come down, little old mother, and warm thyself." She answered, "No, thy animals will bite me." But he said, "They will not hurt thee." Then she cried, "I will throw down a wand to thee, and if thou smitest them with it they will do me no harm." When the huntsman heard that, he had no confidence in the old woman, and said, "I will not strike my animals. Come down, or I will fetch thee." Then she cried, "What dost thou want? Thou shalt not touch me." But he replied, "If thou dost not come, I will shoot thee." Said she, "Shoot away, I do not fear thy bullets!" Then he aimed, and fired at her, but the witch was proof against all leaden bullets, and laughed, and yelled and cried, "Thou shalt not hit me." The huntsman knew what to do, tore three silver buttons off his coat, and loaded his gun with them, for against them her arts were useless, and when he fired she fell down at once with a scream. Then he set his foot on her and said, Old witch, if thou dost not instantly confess where my brother is, I will seize thee with both my hands and throw thee into the fire. She was in a great fright, begged for mercy and said, He and his animals lie in a vault, turned to stone. Then he compelled her to go thither with him, threatened her, and said, Old sea-cat, now shalt thou make my brother and all the human beings lying here, alive again, or thou shalt go into the fire! She took a wand and touched the stones, and then his brother with his animals came to life again, and many others, merchants, artizans, and shepherds, arose, thanked him for their deliverance, and went to their homes. But when the twin brothers saw each other again, they kissed each other and rejoiced with all their hearts. Then they seized the witch, bound her and laid her on the fire, and when she was burnt the forest opened of its own accord, and was light and clear, and the King's palace could be seen at about the distance of a three hours walk.
Thereupon the two brothers went home together, and on the way told each other their histories. And when the youngest said that he was ruler of the whole country in the King's stead, the other observed, "That I remarked very well, for when I came to the town, and was taken for thee, all royal honours were paid me; the young Queen looked on me as her husband, and I had to eat at her side, and sleep in thy bed." When the other heard that, he became so jealous and angry that he drew his sword, and struck off his brother's head. But when he saw him lying there dead, and saw his red blood flowing, he repented most violently: "My brother delivered me," cried he, "and I have killed him for it," and he bewailed him aloud. Then his hare came and offered to go and bring some of the root of life, and bounded away and brought it while yet there was time, and the dead man was brought to life again, and knew nothing about the wound.
After this they journeyed onwards, and the youngest said, "Thou lookest like me, hast royal apparel on as I have, and the animals follow thee as they do me; we will go in by opposite gates, and arrive at the same time from the two sides in the aged King's presence." So they separated, and at the same time came the watchmen from the one door and from the other, and announced that the young King and the animals had returned from the chase. The King said, "It is not possible, the gates lie quite a mile apart." In the meantime, however, the two brothers entered the courtyard of the palace from opposite sides, and both mounted the steps. Then the King said to the daughter, "Say which is thy husband. Each of them looks exactly like the other, I cannot tell." Then she was in great distress, and could not tell; but at last she remembered the necklace which she had given to the animals, and she sought for and found her little golden clasp on the lion, and she cried in her delight, "He who is followed by this lion is my true husband." Then the young King laughed and said, "Yes, he is the right one," and they sat down together to table, and ate and drank, and were merry. At night when the young King went to bed, his wife said, "Why hast thou for these last nights always laid a two-edged sword in our bed? I thought thou hadst a wish to kill me." Then he knew how true his brother had been.